Cerenkov light, generated by high-speed particles traveling faster than light through a material, emits a blue glow that can be used to detect cancers. In clinical trial,nuclear imaging prototype based on Cerenkov radiation successfully captured the presence & location of cancer patients’ tumors

Read the Story

Show Top Comments

LPT: if you work with or near anything that runs on ionising radiation (think nuclear power plant) and you see a beautiful light (eery blueish if water is a moderating agent for example) where there should not be one, that’s really really bad.


So I have to clarify this awful title. Cerenkov radiation isn’t from superluminal light. It’s light given off when neutrons slow down, typically in water. Very characteristically blue. You can see this in an operating nuclear reactor, the water looks like it’s glowing blue. This is fine as long as the shielding calculations are correct, since the blue glow goes through water much easier than neutrons/gamma radiation. There is a “blue flash” associated with Cerenkov radiation that is extremely dangerous. This happens when you are exposed to such a high neutron flux that the water in your eyes glows blue. This is almost always indicative of a lethal dose of radiation. It happens when nuclear material accidentally goes critical, with minimal/no shielding.


Isn’t using cherenkov radiation kind of dangerous?


As I understand the phenomenon: C is the speed of causality. Which coincides with the speed of a photon traveling in a vacuum. The speed of a photon traveling in water is .75c. Cerenkov radiation occurs when a particle, most often an electron, travels through a medium like water at or near the speed C. The particle creates a “bow wave” with the medium (water) polarizing around the wave. The particle loses energy to the polarized medium, which is then emitted as a photon of blue polarized light. Nothing in the effect is superluminal.


Is there a well written list of radiotracers and their application? I understand that cancerous tissue has another rate of metabolism, prone to “store” radio tracers quicker on ingestion, but Id like to have a list of them Like Tissue Type| Cancer type | Imaging technology. I only find lists that list the technology (e.g. PET) or a List of isotopes without links to application.